By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency
August 13, 2013
"I have the best job on the planet!" says Casey Anderson, the 37-year-old naturalist who hosts the National Geographic series "America the Wild." "I get to go to some of the most amazing places for work. So when I go on vacation, I go home. There is nothing more relaxing then sitting on my deck, watching the wildlife, the sunsets and listening to the creek." Anderson, who resides in Emigrant, Montana, loves being just 30 minutes away from his beloved Yellowstone National Park. Fans may stay in touch with him via his Facebook page or @grizanderson.
Q. Where is the most exciting place you've traveled to?
A. I just returned from the arctic. We circumnavigated Svalbard, Norway, going as far north as the 81st parallel and seeing the pack ice via ship, an impossible feat only a few years ago. The sun never set. The combination of massive ice, mountains and sea was astonishing. We saw many polar bears, whales and other wildlife. There was no doubt that the ecosystem was changing. It was beautifully sad.
Q. Have you traveled to any place for work where you know you'd like to return to when you have time for a vacation?
A. I recently went to Guatemala in search of a cave hidden deep in the jungle. There were Mayan ruins, all kinds of wildlife and tons of adventure. I was like a real-life Indiana Jones! I was there for a short period of time, and I must return to that beautiful country filled with so much beautiful natural diversity and history!
Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. I almost always recommend the same thing no matter the destination: It is good to be prepared, do your homework, find out the dos and the don'ts, but never allow your vacation to become too tamed. Get off the beaten path, take your time and seek the unknown. Meet a local, buy them a local brew and find out about all the good secret spots.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. The back country of Yellowstone National Park. Millions of people only see Yellowstone from the road and boardwalks. There are millions of acres of untouched wilderness left to see, and few ever venture off the path. It is a place where you can still listen for silence and hear it.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. One of the first trips I can remember when I was a kid was to Yellowstone National Park. It changed my life forever. Look at me!
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. The world is a big place, and yet it is still a small world. Our connection to it is vital. Our connection to others is critical. We are all one. It is all one. Some people like to stay in their own little bubble and pretend that nothing is wrong, nothing is happening, nobody needs help. Well, the truth is, in the big picture, your own little bubble is a place called earth. It is yours as much as it is mine, we all must treat it accordingly.
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. I am a wild man, naturalist and explorer, but I also like good food! A great weekend getaway sometimes means New York City, Vancouver or another great city to go out and eat some amazing food!
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. I think one of the most romantic places in the world is next to a bonfire softly telling stories, listening to the crackle of the flames and finding each other in the dancing light.
Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. I am in them so, so much that I certainly have an opinion. I love all of the Fairmont (http://www.fairmont.com) properties! I am a huge fan of Aloft (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels). And when it comes to economy, I really dig the beds at a Holiday Inn Express (http://www.hiexpress.com).
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. When it comes to cities, the king is certainly NYC. I really think Tucson, Ariz., in the winter is a funky place. My home city of Bozeman, Mont., is certainly the best mountain town. Delhi, India, is sensory overload in the most amazing way, a must experience for all. Maun, Botswana is like stepping back 100 years in Africa. The people are friendly, adventurous and fun.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. I am a mountain kid and no matter where in the world, a mountain kid is a mountain kid. I have traveled to many mountain towns. Chamba, India at the base of the Himalaya is one place that I found kindred spirits. It was amazing how similar aspects of this place were compared to my home on the other side of the world!
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I want to go to Mongolia. It is so primitive in so many ways. The culture there intrigues me. The vast wild wilderness haunts me. And my father tells me that I have direct descendants from there, so heading to Mongolia would be a bit of a return to the motherland.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. My backpack, my boots and my iPhone. I can go on just about any adventure with these items.
Q. What would be your fantasy trip?
A. I am still waiting for Richard Branson to invite me on his spaceship.
Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. This changes so regularly. My favorites are usually the ones I have never been to, the hole in the walls, the unheard of. New York City is full of them, like many cities. Often the best exploration adventure is just hitting the pavement and finding them.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A. I like to go and find a local cold beer and give it a taste test!
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. There are so many good digital resources out there that sometimes it can be overwhelming. I like to find a true local expert and give them a phone call. It always produces the most useful information.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. I remember watching wild wolves on a beach outside of Tofino, British Columbia. The only light was the Northern Lights. Magical moment. The worst? Simple. Staying up late with local mountain porters in India. Drinking some odd fermented concoction and then losing 25 pounds over the next two weeks, if you know what I mean. Ugh! Maybe the miracle diet we have all been looking for?
Q. If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. Sorry to keep going to it, but it is such a great place! Yellowstone during the holiday season is magical, covered in blankets of snow and peaceful. Go to Old Faithful during a full moon at midnight. It goes off every 90 minutes or so and, at midnight, there is no one there! So cool!
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)